Jun 11, 2013


cover art by Gray Morrow
I've been thinking about science fiction stories that depict a culture with access to some advanced  scientific knowledge and technology, but nobody quite knows how to do new science and generate scientific progress or even keep in repair the existing high tech gizmos. This is on my mind because of the strange culture that develops on the Moon in The Foundations of Eternity.

There was a small population of humans living on the Moon thousands of years ago because aliens wanted to study the cognitive skills of our species. In the "wild" on Earth there was, at that time, no such thing as science, but in the artificial environment of Observer Base the humans developed an interest in mathematics and astronomy and physics...ultimately resulting in some startling advances in the strange technological field of positronics.

Life was quite comfortable for most residents of Observer Base. They were cared for by sophisticated robotic assistants (the orbho) and many daily conveniences were provided by swarms of invisible nanobots. In fact, life was so relaxed that most humans on the Moon had no interest in science: they took the available technological marvels that sustained their lives for granted.

The sheep look up
Yes, it was all too nice and comfy to last!
R. Gohrlay objected to the fact that the little colony of humans on the Moon were little more than a transient scientific experiment being performed by curious space aliens.

When she learns that humans are puppets for scheming aliens,   Gohrlay revolts and overnight all of the orbho and nanites are destroyed or in serious need of reprogramming and the humans are on their own, stranded on the Moon without a single spaceship and no way to reach Earth.

In The Foundations of Eternity the small cadre of scientists suddenly becomes the means by which the human population of the Moon can survive.

I've been wondering just how far and how hard that tiny island of human civilization would fall, to what extent the budding civilization at Observer Base would decay.

What would happen to the Observers who were on still on Earth?

As a young lad I fell in love with science fiction stories such as Asimov's Foundation trilogy (Galactic Empire collapses into barbarism, people slide from atomic power back to fossil fuels), Clarke's The City and the Stars (in the far future humans cower on Earth, afraid to return to the stars), Norton's Star Man's Son (post-apocalyptic Earth), Assignment Nor'Dyren by Sydney Van Scyoc (an alien culture throws away the means for progress and collapses into a dark age) and Brunner's Born Under Mars (Earth's first colony on another world has become a dingy backwater).

Swords and spaceships
I've never read Brunner's The Alter on Asconel. According to Jacob Haller, Brunner imagined a "swords and spaceships" Galactic Empire that reminds me of The Gods Must Be Crazy. If we can drop a Coke bottle on Africa, why can't the ancient remnants of a collapsed galactic civilization include a bunch of spaceships (or teleportation terminals) that bumbling humans can get their hands on? Oh, and throw in a telepath for good measure. Who is the "extra-galactic god", some space alien or just a huckster from the rim of the galaxy who can trick the gullible primitives of Asconel?

In The Foundations of Eternity, humans on the Moon are an alien's science experiment. The aliens have designed and created the human species and with time they will dispose of us, with little more concern than a human scientist might make a genetically engineered bacterium to amplify a spliced plasmid and then destroy it with bleach and flush it down the drain after isolating the desired gene from the recombinant plasmid.

Gino D'Achille cover art
The only times I've ever been tempted to write a sword into a science fiction story is when the story takes place in the past during an era when a sword is high tech. I got my fill of swords in science fiction by watching Star Trek and reading The Faded Sun.

Okay, so Gohrlay does not hack Doltun down with a sword; she fries his brain with a burst of microwaves then conceals the murder by soaking him in liquid nitrogen. I can picture having a klystron and cryogenic fluids around a research lab, but not a sword.

Still, there seems to be a special law of nature within fictional universes...the bigger the sword that a heroine carries, the less clothing she wears.

In The Foundations of Eternity, R. Gohrlay is stranded on the Moon without a spaceship and without any ability to control or reverse engineer the remaining nanites.

R. Gohrlay is able to establish telepathic contact with the biological Gohrlay. I'm currently struggling with the issue of one-way versus bi-directional telepathy. For Gohrlay, telepathy works best between two brains that are similar in structure and function. When R. Nahan is provided with copies of the "Gohrlay brain circuits" telepathic communication automatically begins to occur between R. Gohrlay and R. Nahan.

R. Gohrlay learns about the "Huaoshy" by means of telepathic contact with the biological Gohrlay who is on Many Sails. I put "Huaoshy" in quotes because the word "Huaoshy" actually refers to the Kac'hin, but Gohrlay mistakenly begins the human practice of using "Huaoshy" to refer to the sedronic lifeform that created the Kac'hin. On board Many Sails, Gohrlay learns that she is going to live out the rest of her life on a distant planet of the "Huaoshy" (actually, the Kac'hin).

Should the biological Gohrlay have some sensation of being in telepathic contact with R. Gohrlay? If so, would Gohrlay be able to keep secret from the Kac'hin the existence of telepathy? I imagine that telepathy depends on the presence of a type of hierion in brains. In order for R. Gohrlay to receive meaningful information by telepathy there must be a resonance between "her" brain and the brain of the biological Gohrlay. Because of "her" positronic brain, R. Gohrlay has more hierions and better control over them, but the biological Gohrlay should have some change in her neural network activity when R. Gohrlay is looking through her mind. Would R. Gohrlay be able to send a specific message to the biological Gohrlay, such as: Don't let the aliens know that we are in telepathic communication?

When R. Gohrlay takes over Observer Base she uses her telepathic ability to send a destructive pulse of hierions into Orbho Anagro. Her positronic brain can alter the behavior of the hierions that are a key component of the Huaoshy nanite technology that is used in the orbho. Never having explored positronics themselves, the Huaoshy never developed a defense against Gohrlay's surprise attack.

Fun with google image search...
Searching for Gohrlay's descendants
In contrast, Many Sails uses even more advanced sedronic components, so the biological Gohrlay is carried away by Many Sails when the orbho lose control of Observer Base.

I've started thinking about the fate of Gohrlay when she is taken off to the galactic core by Many Sails. In Part II of The Foundations of Eternity when Many Sails finally returns to Earth, many thousands of years have passed. Still, it might be fun to assume that one of the humans on board Many Sails is a clone of Gohrlay or maybe a descendant.

The positronic robots such as R. Rycleu are programmed to protect Humanity, but they have been taking orders from R. Gohrlay for thousands of years. What would they do if confronted by a clone of the original Gohrlay who told them that it was a mistake for positronic robots to struggle against the Huaoshy? Would R. Gohrlay finally be willing to admit that a small gang of positronic robots can't compete against the god-like Huaoshy?

Related reading. The details of Gohrlay's telepathic powers are described in my next blog post.

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